As Medellín becomes more popular with young travelers making their way through South America, what about the older generation of ex-pats who have lived in Colombia for many years? Or those considering moving to retire in the City of Eternal Spring? Devoting your future to a foreign country often takes serious research and planning, and yet, more people than ever are doing it. With the newfound appeal of settling abroad for the long-term, here are a few of the advantages of growing old in Medellín:
Medellín’s climate is generally warm all year round, reaching temperatures in the 80s during the hottest season, and never dropping below 60 (even at night). The warm weather, combined with plenty of open green spaces, tree-lined streets, and sweeping views of the valley in which Medellín sits, make the city extremely pleasant to walk around and also affects how people interact. Most days, you’ll find Colombians sitting at tiendas with a beer, watching the world go by on the street, or flying kites on the hilltops – the climate makes Medellín a sociable place, and the people are as equally warm as the conditions.
There are also significant health benefits associated with living in a warm location. Controlled exposure to the sun can increase Vitamin D levels, which in turn, boosts energy levels, improves your immune system, as well as prevents circulatory problems (something elderly people are at higher risk of in colder climates). The sunshine additionally positively affects memory and mood, as studies have proven that people who spend more time outdoors are generally fitter and happier. This certainly ties in with the likelihood of doing more exercise in warm weather conditions, something Medellín caters to very well with activities like the Ciclovia every Sunday, free swimming sessions at Estadio, outdoor gyms across the city and yoga classes in the parks.
While it’s worth noting that Medellín has rainy seasons with heavy downpours, the weather, in general, is a fantastic balance between being warm and fresh without being oppressive or uncomfortable. It’s also important to note that the sun’s UV rays are strong in Medellín, and foreigners and elderly people, in particular, need to take precautions to protect their skin when here.
Slower pace of life
It’s no secret that Latin America has a more relaxed way of living than compared to North America or Europe, and Colombia is no exception. The concept of time, for example, is very different. Colombians are famous for being late or vague with plans – it’s not out of rudeness, it’s because there isn’t the same expectation to be punctual as there is in other countries. The word ‘ahorita’ for example, translates to ‘a little while’, but in Colombia can mean anything from five minutes to two hours.
Because locals have a looser grasp of time, Paisas are normally very patient. Supermarkets, banks and the metro can sometimes have long lines, but there are rarely complaints from people. Instead, Colombians sometimes refer to themselves as ‘descomplicados’ meaning ‘uncomplicated’ – a nod to their flexible and care-free culture.
Paisa culture is exceptionally welcoming, happy and family-oriented. Work life and personal life is very balanced in the city, and come the weekend, certain neighborhoods are filled with music and people spilling onto the streets. Whether you’re looking for a sweaty reggaetón club with beautiful locals, a hidden bar blasting vallenato, or a game of cards with the regulars at the tienda, Medellín caters to all types of people looking to unwind. While the party scene is a big draw to the city, there are also plenty of wholesome activities like museums, parks, hikes and tours to keep busy during the day.
Colombia also places a strong emphasis on family values, and so it’s not uncommon for three generations to be living together in one house. In fact, every Sunday, extended relatives usually gather together to share quality time and of course, a few drinks. The importance of family means that most Colombians have a certain respect for people older than them, and you’ll often see people offering up their seat on public transport to seniors.
Low cost of living
Compared to the states or Europe, Medellín is very cheap, and yet still offers a high quality of life. If you’ve managed to save in another currency like the dollar, euro or pound, your money will go a lot further in Colombia. Buying property costs significantly less than elsewhere in the world, and particularly in cities like Medellín, is a smart investment. Not to mention, day-to-day goods like food, gas, utilities and domestic travel are all more than reasonable. On average, a single person can live comfortably in Medellín on just over $1,000 USD per month – meaning if you chose to grow old here, you can devote excess funds to side projects (some ex-pats opt to buy a finca), new hobbies (like salsa dancing or Spanish classes), or simply making sure your permanent life in Medellín is that extra bit special.
It’s important to note that every year prices in Colombia go up due to inflation (typically between 2-4%), and the cost of living in Medellín is increasing as the city expands and foreign investment becomes more popular. However, the overall cost of living remains very manageable, particularly so if converting from a better currency value.
Colombia is well-known for its medical tourism industry, and for good reason. The country is home to a variety of skilled doctors and surgeons, and procedures cost of a fraction of the price they would elsewhere, plus the World Health Organization places Colombia’s healthcare system ahead of that of Canada, Germany and the U.S. Medellín specifically has eight of the top hospitals in all of Latin America, and most medical institutions are modern, have specialist treatment departments, as well as English-speaking staff. It’s a legal requirement that everyone living in Colombia has health insurance, which is offered through either the public company Nueva EPS, or private companies such as Sura and Coomeva EPS – both of which are inexpensive and cover health, dental and vision in their basic plans.
It may seem obvious but growing old in Medellín is the perfect way to improve your Spanish skills! Whatever level you’re at when you move, Colombia is famous for having some of the clearest Spanish in the world and Paisa friendliness means there are endless opportunities to practice. From learning basic phrases to unique slang, committing to the City of Eternal Spring for the long haul is sure to have you speaking like a local in no time.